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AERA Virtual Conference Off: 'The Situation Changed in Ways Unimaginable'

The last time the American Educational Research Association cancelled its annual research meeting, its members' countries were embroiled in World War II. This time, it was the unrelenting spread of the new coronavirus.

Late Monday night, AERA Executive Director Felice Levine and President Vanessa Siddle Walker announced the group would cancel its plan to hold its annual research conference virtually. The latest announcement comes only a few weeks after it said it would change its in-person conference scheduled for next month in San Francisco, a community hit particularly hard by the virus, to a virtual event. .

Last week, the smaller Association for Education Finance and Policy held a virtual meeting in lieu of its planned in-person meeting in Fort Worth, Texas, but in a letter to AERA's members, Levine said the "situation on the ground quite literally has changed in ways unimaginable on March 5, 2020, when the AERA Council decided to cancel holding a place-based meeting.'' 

The group reached out to more than 1,500 members and planned speakers, many of whom now found themselves barred from entering the country, caring for sick loved ones or quarantined for their own exposures, caring for children home from closed schools or trying to teach virtual classes, or otherwise coping with the rapidly changing national and local responses to the pandemic. 

"We cannot in good conscience ask more of our stakeholders, our friends, our members, when life's demands continue to compound in such powerful kinds of ways," Siddle Walker said in a video statement.

The groups suggested that it may provide online courses or chats in the future, but offered no specifics for now.

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